Shipping containers are no longer the cheap, bargain-basement way to get extra space on your property, in your home or in your garden that they used to be – partly because they’ve become very popular, so there’s more demand and fewer products, which means they’re a little bit pricier now. Still, they’re cheaper than conventional building materials and if you put in the work you can completely transform a towering hulk of metal with virtually zero outside light into something fabulous.
Step forward (not literally) the Container Bar. Not a particularly original name, but it sure is an original place.
Want to visit? Head to Austin, Texas. Container Bar was built by North Arrow Studio and is a huge 8,000sqft – ginormous when you consider what it is constructed from. Seven shipping containers are stacked on top of one another to create a double-height bar with outdoor light and exposure to the elements, as well as individually designed private rooms and plenty of cubby holes for you and your pals to hang out in.
The design studio have really played up to what the bar is made from and haven’t tried to hide the industrial nature of the containers – you can see the outsides of several containers from the inside of the bar, and with steelwork virtually everywhere you look and details like metal rollers over the bar, this definitely isn’t a cosy space. Unless you find steel brackets cosy, in which case, rock on.
Some of the spaces feel absolutely vast, like the seating area pictured below. Others feel small and enclosed: there’s a nice juxtaposition between large and open and small and closed off that makes this bar a bit of a gem. Whether you want to spread out with your friends and see glorious, glamorous design all around you, or you’d prefer to sneak away and snuggle up in a private room, Container Bar provides you with both options.
Container Bar took a long time to build and to get planning permission for – it seems like very few people actually know a lot about getting permissions for buildings made out of shipping containers, but it arrived at the end of 2013 after a lag of nearly four years. Bridget Dunlap had been leasing the site for that time and didn’t really know what to do with it. That, coupled with the state department not knowing their shipping container from their ship and the sheer number of unknown variables involved in taking on a project like this meant that things took a while to take off. But we’re glad they did.
If anything can inspire would-be self-builders to make use of more unusual recyclable materials – and to wholeheartedly embrace them – the Container Bar can! You might expect a home or a bar or any space made out of shipping containers to be a little bit flat, or a little bit dull, but this bar is definitely not. It’s brimming with colour, style, design and fun – and it serves some darn good cocktails and food, too. Pain Killer (rum, coconut rum, Irish cream liquor and pineapple) and lemongrass pork cheeks, anyone?